Ben Roethlisberger’s chances of playing in Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game at Denver seem to be a little less than they were a day or two ago.
In the 48 hours or so after the Steelers’ thrilling wild-card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, “sprained AC joint” was the main bullet point of what most people knew about the shoulder injury Roethlisberger suffered during the game, but ligament damage wasn’t part of the equation.
Roethlisberger revealed on WFAN Pittsburgh that he did tear ligaments in his shoulder and he hasn’t tried to throw a football since that game.
The Steelers’ quarterback was carted off the field for X-rays after being sacked by Vontaze Burfict late in the third quarter of Saturday’s game. He returned to the game and led the Steelers’ winning drive. He was only able to throw short passes and said Tuesday that he had to shorten his throwing motion. Roethlisberger completed a 12-yard pass to Antonio Brown on fourth-and-3. That was followed by two consecutive personal-foul penalties by the Bengals that set up Chris Boswell’s game-winning 35-yard field goal.
It was the Steelers’ first playoff victory in five years, but to get to the AFC championship there’s a legitimate chance they’ll have to beat the top-seeded Broncos without any of the “Big Three” that was expected to power their offense this season.
Le’Veon Bell has been out since Week 8. His replacement, DeAngelo Williams, was injured in Week 17 at Cleveland. The tandem of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman combined for 123 yards on 28 carries against the Bengals.
Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown would be harder to replace.
Brown is in the concussion protocol after taking a hit from Burfict on the Steelers’ final drive Saturday.
Mike Tomlin strongly suggested in his weekly press conference Tuesday that backup quarterback Landry Jones would get significant practice time this week.
Mike Tomlin playing the suspense card… says Landry Jones will get more practice time, he’s huddled w/ coaches this very minute #ButBen?
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 12, 2016
Jones completed two of five passes for 11 yards in Roethlisberger’s place Saturday and threw an interception that would have clinched the win for the Bengals if Jeremy Hill hadn’t fumbled. In the regular season, Jones went 1-1 as a starter with three touchdown passes and four interceptions.
The last time the Steelers were without both Roethlisberger and Brown, they committed eight turnovers in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland in 2012.
And it’s a lot harder to win in Denver than Cleveland.